Majestic Cederberg September 2020

After our visit to the Gannabos quiver tree forest and a night around the fire at a nearby bush camp we headed back south in the direction of Wupperthal and the Cederberg Mountains. We made a short stop in town (Niewoudtville) where we just missed a 15 minute performance of the Rooibos Riel Dansers but admired some pimped out Mad Max-like vehicles. 

(Riel dansers video courtesy of Pierre Henning who must have been there right before us and in time to see the dancers in action)

Leaving Nieuwoudtville, we passed flocks of sheep and curious cattle grazing in the flowery fields and we made a short stop at the Oorlogskloof Glacier Pavement along the main road out of Nieuwoudtville.

Then it was time for a bit of off-roading as we hit the steep downhill of the Botterkloof Pass testing Trokkie’s agility and brake capabilities on narrow and winding mountain roads. We continued the beautiful drive through the fertile but utter desolate Botterkloof, meeting some creatures of the nasty and some of the pretty kind and always amazed to find farms, hamlets and huts in valleys and mountains hours away from civilization. (To put it into perspective: on the 4th last image of this section, the tiny white speck on the mountain slope to the right is a house all on its own!)

We eventually found ourselves a parking/camping spot at a farm gate at Hoek se Berg and settled down for the night with a bottle of wine and a game of Catan.

(Catan and some of the other photos, courtesy of Lee Shaw)

Next morning, waking up to wet and cloudy conditions,  we continued to Wupperthal, a Missionary Village that burned down a in 2018 and is currently in the process of being restored.

When we arrived there sometime mid-morning, Stefaan realised we were pretty low on diesel and filled up the tank with the one jerry can that had diesel in. After a debate where the closest place might be to find a diesel pump to fill up, we decided on Eselbank and Matjiesrivier. Part of the yes/no debate was the hairy and narrow  road up the mountain and the not so great weather.  (Fair enough, after a quite wet start of the morning at Hoek se Berg, the weather had cleared, although there were still very dark skies in the distance.) Especially when Lee told us that on one of these Cederberg passes they had slipped in clay with a Pajero, I was soooo apprehensive (read: scared) to this with a 10-ton truck! Jeepers!

Initially we missed the turn-off which necessitated a 47 point-U-turn on the teeny weeny roads of Wupperthal. Eventually, turning onto a gravel road into the right direction… off we went!

Man, was that a scary trip! 

We crawled up that mountain at about 5km per hour with me hanging out the window with the go-pro. I think Stefaan made me do the go-pro filming to take my mind off the steep ravine falling away on my side of the road. I kept on grabbing seat and handles till my knuckles turned white and he (I’m pretty darn sure) could hear whenever I held my breath in anticipation of whatever could happen. There were moments that I had this wild idea that if I leaned more to the middle of the truck, my little weight would stop us from going over the edge!  I think we all believe in miracles, don’t we!  As we crawled our way up, I was counting on our guardian angels doing some serious overtime that day!

We had met some cyclists who were doing this same pass and we passed them on the road up. They had been cycling in the Cederberg for the past three days (about 250km) and they did the up-hills almost easier than Trokkie!   As you can see on the photo below, the dirt road was wide enough for two cyclists riding abreast, but for our truck it was really scary narrow!!!

Luckily the weather had improved dramatically and the road was dry. I could put my visions of slipping off the mountain to bed! 

(photos of Trokkie crossing the bridge and on the road taken from the back courtesy of Lee and Gavin Shaw who followed us with their Pajero)

But we made it to the top! I was happy that- on a section where he was on the ravine side- Stefaan had to admit it was a scary, steep way down! A breather was more than welcome and we made a short stop on the rocky ruggedness of the berg.  

We continued on a flatter section and cruised till we hit  Eselbank mid-afternoon and decided to camp on the side of the waterfall. We took a short walk amidst the amazing rock formations eroded and shaped by millennia of nature forces working their magic in the Cederberg Mountains.

After another quite windy night at the waterfall we had a cup of coffee with dark clouds and mist approaching over the mountain tops and a beautiful rainbow making its appearance.

Seems Trokkie is our own ‘pot of gold at the end of the rainbow’ ! 🙂

A walk to the bottom of of the falls was not in the picture so we decided to continue to Matjies Rivier for fuel.

That road winding through the Cederberg Mountains is simply amazing: corrugated dirt roads and potholed river crossings, fertile valleys, eroded rocky mountains and huge boulders, dry riverbeds and little streams bursting with tadpoles, and little hamlets and pondokkies strewn around on impossible places on the mountain slopes. And of course… still an abundance of beautiful flowers all around!

In Matjies Rivier, we figured out we just might have had mixed signals when discussing where to find diesel, because Matjies Rivier was definitely not the place. By then the diesel that we had filled from the jerry can had run pretty low, and Stefaan didn’t want to take the risk of running dry and having to bleed the fuel system. Lee and Gavin offered to “quickly shoot over to Clanwilliam” to fill the two jerry cans. The “quickly shoot over” part is not so evident – it’s about a three hour round trip! (Little side note: realising that for this kind of terrain (off-roading) and any sort of remote areas we might travel to in the future, extra diesel is important, Stefaan has designed two extra diesel tanks for the truck from the word go. Unfortunately the guy who was going to weld them for us wasn’t able to do them in time before we left Johannesburg on 1 September. This trip made us aware how important it is that we get them installed and that is our first priority when we get back to Johannesburg in the next month or so!)

Our saving angels got back with our precious diesel, we filled up the tank and parted ways. They were going back to Cape Town (to finish their truck) and we continued to Clanwilliam to fill up on diesel. By then it was late afternoon and stopping to see the sights was not on the program any more. After we took diesel in Clanwilliam we continued to Lambertsbaai, where we camped at the Muisbosskerm Camping Ground.

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